Palestine: a joyful result for a father of four

  • 06 Oct 2020

What would be your feeling if one day you lost your sight and couldn’t see your loved ones? Now imagine how difficult vision loss is for a parent, a child or grandparent. It is devastating!

Here is the story of a father who has been visually impairment in his eye since 2017.

Shaban Al Shamaly, 56, is a proud father-of-four and a school security guard who lives and works in Jabalia Camp, Gaza Strip, 72km from Jerusalem. Shaban loves watching historical documentaries, reading, writing and walking.

Last April, Shaban was taken to St John Eye Hospital in Gaza because of his eye issue. He is experiencing cloudy vision. He was eventually diagnosed with a cataract which can lead to permanent blindness if left untreated.

Cataract is a leading case of blindness in Palestine.

Cataract affected Shaban’s lifestyle and work. He is sole provider for his family and working to secure a better future for his children. His poor vision condition impacted his ability to generate income, carry out normal day-to-day activities and see his children’s faces.

Although his cataract operation was originally scheduled on the 13th of May, Shaban did not undergo the surgery. His access to eye health treatment was affected by the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown.

“My family was anxious from the pandemic,” Shaban said. “There were many challenges of living with the lockdown such as making money, providing food and dealing with uncertainty.”

Despite his physical health and wellbeing challenges as a visually impairment person, Shaban did not stop inspiring his children to study and seek knowledge. 89% of visually impaired people live in low and middle-income countries. Blindness sometimes forces parents to stop sending their children to school as they become responsible for making money and taking care of the family.

Although Shaban’s operation was postponed because of the lockdown and precautionary measures, the health workers continued to follow up with him. Shaban did not give up and he held onto hope to receive the eye care he needs. He kept waiting until he heard the good news in July that he would undergo the sight saving operation. Shaban felt safe to get the treatment despite the virus and fear of transmission.

“I wasn’t afraid. The hospital took the necessary precautions and prevention measurements to protect us and its staff. Everyone was wearing personal protection equipment.”

Shaban’s blindness was treated with a straightforward 20 minute operation. The next treatment step for Shaban is to wear glass to sustain his sight.  Now he can move freely around, work, read, write and, most importantly, he can see his children. Shaban said he can safely cross the roads. He thanked the health workers for saving his sight and helping him to secure access to eye services during the pandemic.

“My family couldn’t believe I can see them. It was a mix of emotions of happiness, excitement and disbelief. It’s great to get seeing the faces of your children, wife and relatives,” he added. “I did not restore my eyesight only, my wellbeing, independency and self-efficacy have been restored too.”

Shaban is fully recovered now and continues to work as a school security guard at his area, Jabalia Camp.

The Fred Hollows Foundation’s work in Palestine is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).

The Fred Hollows Foundation:

The Fred Hollows Foundation is an international development organization working to eliminate avoidable blindness. The Foundation works in more than 25 countries around the world, restoring sight to people in some of the most marginalised communities. In 2019, The Foundation screened 45,243 people and performed 6,639 eye operations and treatments including 1,064 cataract operations and 4,767 diabetic retinopathy treatments in Palestine.


St. John’s Hospital Group:

St John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital Group is a historic hospital spanning over 139 years of history. We are working tirelessly to keep our doors open to patients, and providing medical and surgical services, especially during a pandemic that has devastated much of the world.